Revitalizing historic buildings can help small towns

Arizona is full of small cities with rich histories and capitalizing on that history can promote economic growth.

While Tucson, Flagstaff and Prescott may be more well known for their historic downtowns, Cottonwood has been working to revitalize its downtown historic district to help draw tourists to the city. 

“When we look at revitalizing historic buildings and can they help a small town’s economy, the answer is definitely yes,” Cottonwood Economic Development Director Richard Faust said. “Cottonwood leadership…have kind of a shared vision and brilliant idea for historic buildings to be the centerpiece for our industry, which is the wine tasting and hospitality industry.” 

Clark helped lay the groundwork for cities looking to create a Historic Hometown Redevelopment District (HHRD). According to him, the district should be no more than one square mile in size with no less than 40 percent of the building being older than 60 years.

“The denser the better,” he said.   

In Cottonwood, the city government realized the importance of redeveloping historic buildings and decided to sell the buildings they owned in order to bring in more commerce entities.

“As you come into Cottonwood all of the buildings coming into old town are historic buildings,” Faust said. “[The Government is] willing to get personnel out of those properties and sell those properties so that they can be utilized to assist in the revitalization in the downtown historic cultural areas of Cottonwood.”

According to Faust, along with the wine industry, developing a vibrant downtown is growing its economic value. 

“We’re seeing an entire revitalization of old town over the last four to five years,” Faust said. “With all of that, you’re seeing a large amount of tourism moving into the area… we are now getting contacted by national hotel brands looking at coming into the community. You see national brands such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Dutch Bros, things of that already moving into Cottonwood and building here.”

When a city creates an HHRD and is awarded eligibility, it will trigger a portion of the state’s transaction privilege tax revenue from businesses in that district. Those will be held at the state.

Faust said that investing money into rebuilding downtowns is worth every penny.

“It’s an investment,” he said. “They like seeing the antiquated old buildings… I think that’s just the big attraction, people just love seeing those, they love the history, they love recounting history and they’ll visit. They’ll actually come if you’re actually building up your old town area and creating a vibrant historical district.”

Emily Richardson

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